If there is a horse whisperer in Bryan, Texas, it may just be Evelyn Beesaw. As a recent graduate of Bryan High School, Evelyn will be one of the newest members of the Texas A&M University Equestrian Team in the fall. She has been riding and showing horses for more than half her life, but her love for horses began when she was just a few months old.
“I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember,” Evelyn said. “My neighbor let me ride horses around her property, and it escalated from there. Riding is a unique and cool sport because you manipulate the animal by being gentle and every ride is different.”
She has won numerous riding awards over the years. Most recently, she was named the World Champion on her sister Claire’s horse at the Youth World Appaloosa Horse Show, as well as Reserve World Champion on her own horse, Dealer.
Evelyn’s parents, Kristen and Kevin are both Bryan ISD employees and are very proud of their daughter’s drive to be the best.
“Evelyn is extremely organized and independent,” Kristen Beesaw said. “We are so proud of how she juggles so many activities and excels at them.”
In addition to showing horses, Evelyn was vice president of the Bryan High School Choir, very active with the a capella group Vocal Legacy, and a member of both the National Honor Society and 4-H Club. She graduated in the top two percent of her class with an International Baccalaureate diploma.
Evelyn plans to study biomedical sciences and become a doctor. Currently, she is looking forward to the next level of equestrian competition.
“Riding competitively at college will help me be more successful,” she said. “I’m excited to be a part of a team that has a reputation for excellence.”
Cheri said the experience of watching her son and her husband play in the same band has been special.
“It’s been really amazing to see the bond they’ve created not only as father and son but as musicians and bandmates,” she said.
The Kane Alvarado Band practices in a home studio and is currently working on their own original music.
One of Kane’s first bands he played in was called the Johnson Jammers. It was formed with Johnson Elementary classmates when he attended Johnson Elementary under the direction of Jamie Mosqueda. This school year is Kane’s first at Fannin Elementary. His principal Rebecca Ryberg said he is a worthy recipient of “I Am Bryan ISD” recognition.
The District’s popular “I Am Bryan ISD” video series flourished this year with outstanding students and teachers. These individuals show what it means to represent Bryan ISD with talent, character and determination.
A boxer, an MIT student, a linguist, a record-setting gymnast and a career educator have all been featured in the series over the past year.
Seth McGee Rudder High junior; National TITLE Boxing Tournament winner
It’s clear that Bryan ISD students, teachers and alumni continue to represent the district well, including candidates not listed above. We look forward to seeing the new “I Bryan ISD” crop that emerges next school year.
The halls, classrooms and kitchens at Rudder and Bryan High are dotted with career-ready cooks who produce flavorful dishes exceeding industry standards.
Expectations in the kitchens are high. And the fact that these dishes are created by high school students instead of professional chefs makes no difference to the taste buds.
The One Student, One Recipe video series offers a snapshot into the many the unique dishes created at Bryan ISD culinary programs on a daily basis. Local media and the community recognized the students’ achievements. You can relieve all of this year’s One Student, One Recipe videos below.
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Pineapple Casserole
Thanks to everyone who was involved in making the video series possible. We look forward to following (and eating 🙂 ) the delicious dishes coming out of the Rudder and Bryan High kitchens next year!
Coach Rose Gregg arrives at Bryan High School at 5:35 a.m. every morning. The school’s start time is 8:15 a.m.
Working as a special academic center teacher, she’s technically not a coach anymore. That doesn’t stop most people who know her from calling her “Coach Gregg” with love and admiration.
Gregg’s dedication to arriving at school “on-time” every day would be a remarkable feat in its own right. What makes it even more amazing is she’s arrived early to a Bryan ISD school nearly every school day for the last 51 years. And, she usually leaves school more than two hours after her school’s scheduled end time.
If you want to know about a noteworthy event that’s occurred in Bryan over the past half century, Gregg’s a good person to start with. She’s seen integration, schools built, schools torn down, state championships won, state championships lost, academic success and lives changed. She’s seen it all. And she is thankful for it all.
Teaching isn’t a job to Gregg. It’s a passion. Deanie Dudley, a former Bryan High track student under Gregg, said, “There’s no way you can stay in a job that long and not love what you do.”
The students drive Gregg, and she drives them to be better.
Last school year, Bryan ISD honored Gregg for 50 years of service in the school district. This year, Bryan ISD will honor Angie Krolczyk, TESC administrative assistant, and Judy Hughson, Kemp-Carver assistant principal, for their 50 years in the district. Many people would see such an accomplishment as the culmination of their career. Gregg sees it as a continuation. Like clockwork, she arrived two and a half hours early in August to start her 51st year in the same organization.
“My hobby would be spending money playing bingo, but I don’t need to be in the bingo hall every day,” Gregg said. “As long as I am up, my mind is functional, my health is fairly decent, and I feel like I can help someone, I want to keep going.”
Gregg said it all depends on her heath. She said if it gets to the point where she’s “not useful” that she’ll quit going to school because she doesn’t want to waste the students time, the district’s and her time.
Like many teachers, Gregg’s work stretches beyond the classroom. She’s provided students financial assistance to get into college and helped students move to college. She’s bought belts for students when a dress code required them. And she bought shaving cream and razors for students when they needed a shave. She said she did all these things because she “wants her kids to be in class if they can.”
Growing up “up the road” in the small town of Calvert, TX, Gregg’s path didn’t seem like it was in line to be an educator. She didn’t think she would be able to go to college because she didn’t think her grades would be good enough. That mindset changed when someone told Gregg’s sister that her sister Rose wouldn’t ever make it in college. Gregg said she feels she proved that person wrong when she became the only girl in her high school class to graduate from college.
“I always tell the kids in school, don’t ever let me or anyone else tell you that you can’t be what you want to be,” Gregg said. “If you want to be something, go for it.”
Students, past students, fellow educators and community members appreciate the belief she has in them.
When a photo was posted on Bryan ISD’s Facebook page last June of Gregg receiving an award for 50 years of service it received 873 “likes, loves and wows” and 141 comments, all of which were positive. Many people expressed their gratitude for the impact she had on their lives and for challenging them to accomplish their dreams.
In her work as a track coach, cross country coach, basketball coach, volleyball coach, PE teacher, and teacher, Gregg influenced thousands of lives. Two Bryan ISD Board members, Ruthie Waller and Felicia Benford, remember Gregg fondly. Waller worked as a junior varsity track coach when Gregg started the first Bryan High girls’ track team in 1976 and won the state championship in 1980.
“She taught me so much about the sport of track and field,” Waller said. “She really knew what she was doing. Being the sub-varsity coach, we would sit on the bus together, and she would teach me the intricate details of track and field.”
Gregg coached Benford in basketball and track. It took a while for Benford to get accustomed to how hard Gregg pushed her to work, but she is thankful for the result. The work Gregg did outside of coaching is what Benford remembers most.
“Looking back at her, I didn’t look at her as a coach,” Benford said. “I looked at her as someone that came from the neighborhood because she was so concerned about the girls in the high school and what we were doing in the community. She was just such as positive role model. She was always the same in school and the community.”
Lester Banks, Bryan High campus monitor, described how Gregg didn’t let her sister Sharon quit track when she wanted to. Later, she received the “athlete of the year award” in track and is currently teaching at Rudder High School. On Facebook, Sam Pittman II thanked Gregg for “regularly visiting my grandmother in the nursing home.” Michele McKinley thanked her for serving as a mentor in her early teaching years.” Beverly Owen said Gregg went “beyond all that is expected of a teacher.” JoBeth Palmer said Gregg was “a major part” in developing her and her sister to what they are today. Accounts of lives changed go on and on, and are still continuing today.
Lane Buban, Bryan High principal, sees Gregg as a “very valuable resource.” He said he goes to Gregg for advice because of her knowledge and experience.
As Gregg works to impact lives the same way she did on her first day of school at Neal Junior High on Sept. 1, 1966, she’s appreciative of the district that gave her a start in teaching.
“The people of BISD have been good to me,” Gregg said. “They gave me my first opportunity to teach. You know, they believed in me, and I believe in them. So by believing in each other, it just made me more comfortable to want to stay here. I’ve had other job offers, but I didn’t take them. I like being here.”
Heading into the thick of spring, Rudder and Bryan High students are developing their creativity and career prospects through floral design.
Part of FFA, floral design classes teach students skills they can use in a florist shop, a hobby business and many other industries.
Rebecca Casey Ortiz, Rudder junior, is taking floral design classes for the first time this year and was recently offered a job with an event planning business arranging flowers for smaller events and dinners.
“The things I’m learning in floral design, I’m able to apply in my job,” Ortiz said.
Michelle Knox, Ortiz’s floral design teacher at Rudder, said she is “out-shined” all the time by her students, which is something she loves. She said she is constantly reminded how students are growing in their skills. Knox started teaching floral design at Rudder in 2014, but she said the program has really “taken off” the last two years.
“On days that projects are finished you see kids throughout the hallway with their arrangements and it’s like walking advertisements to take floral design,” Knox said. “For those who can’t take floral design, we do seasonal Pinterest nights where anyone can come and make the project of the month with all supplies provided and help offered for a small fee.”
Next school year, advanced floral design classes will be offered at Rudder and Bryan High, bringing increased certification and competition opportunities and a possible floral club at Rudder. Barbara Volk-Tunnell, Bryan High floral design teacher, said students could get a high school floral certification or an art certification through floral design.
“This gives them the opportunity to get a foot in the door to get a job over someone that doesn’t have a certification,” Volk-Tunnell said. “They might get paid more or be able to be a little more hands-on. Even if they’re not going to go into as a career, it looks good on their resume.”
Her students have traveled all over the state for competitions related to horticulture and floral arrangements. Kamryn, Frenzel, one of Volk-Tunnel’s sophomore students, recently earned second place in the “Dining with a Texas Flair” competition at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and walked away with $750 to use as she sees fit.
“I didn’t know that I would be good at floral design,” Frenzel said. “I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have any experience. I just learned a lot in this class and it’s very helpful.”
Ola Thornhill, Bryan High sophomore, signed up for floral design because she wanted to learn something new. She quickly learned that the class involved more than she expected.
“You have to know a lot personally about plants,” Thornhill said. “You have to learn about the different types of arrangements. It’s not just putting plants together. You have to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
Playing the violin is her passion. Teaching it gives her joy. Seeing a kid smile when they learn a new song, get something right or learn how to hold a bow puts a smile on her face.
She’s played music most of her life, but Laura Gonzalez, Bryan High junior, never realized its true impact until November when she formed the Bach String Academy for Bryan ISD elementary students. The student-led program, which offers violin lessons every Monday to elementary school students all over Bryan, blossomed out of an idea Gonzalez had for an International Baccalaureate, IB, service project.
Creativity, activity, service, or CAS, are core requirements of the IB program Gonzales is enrolled in at Bryan High. Students have the option to choose how they will fulfill the requirements.
Gonzalez took part in a free employee-led after-school string program when she was in elementary school, discovering its value. After a conversation about her idea with John Lemons, Bryan High orchestra director, Gonzalez gained confidence in her ability to organize a similar program. She approached a few of her fellow Bryan High orchestra students about helping her lead the program. Eventually, seven other violin students and a cello student joined her as volunteers.
Students Teaching Students
At the beginning of the school year, Gonzalez sent flyers home to elementary parents advertising free weekly string lessons. They didn’t know what to expect. Gonzalez said she expected to hear from a few parents who might be interested. However, when she arrived at the academy’s first information meeting on Oct. 24 a room full of eager parents and students greeted her.
“At the beginning, we were just thinking maybe 15 kids, but overall we have around 33 kids,” Gonzalez said.
To accommodate all of the students, Bach organizers divided the groups between “older and younger” students and made use of additional orchestra rooms.
Interest spread quickly, and it didn’t take long for the elementary students to get excited about the program. When talking about the excitement that came with the first time she played a song Lydia Frei, Bonham third-grade student, said, “It made me feel pretty accomplished in my life. It was one of the biggest things I’ve ever done.”
Students like Frei can get lessons from Bach String Academy for free. All they have to do is bring an instrument, which can be rented at local stores for a reasonable price.
Frei’s mother Ashley said she was a little hesitant about her daughter getting music lessons because she didn’t want to commit to the money and extra time required without knowing if her daughter really interested. She’s since found out through the academy that her daughter is genuinely interested in playing the violin and she’s thankful for the opportunity.
“Bach was able to give our family an opportunity to have music lessons and definitely not break the bank,” Ashley said.
She’s thankful that the student organizers spend their free time to “give back.” Many of the organizers like Tomasita Ponce, Bryan High junior, are just as thankful to the elementary students for what they provide in return.
“It makes me really happy when they’re excited,” Ponce said. “I get excited for them too. It’s like oh my gosh we learned a new song.”
When her elementary students struggle, Ponce said she tries to understand what they’re struggling with and talk to them in a way they helped her understand when she was their age.
Samantha Cruz, Bryan High junior, said the students developed a lot since the time they joined the academy. She said the students had to be taught the fundamentals, such as how to hold an instrument, know the parts of an instrument and read music.
“It’s nice seeing everything come together,” Cruz said. “Most of the time the kids comprehend with us, and we’re just going with the flow, so it’s nice.”
As everything comes together with the Bach program, the student organizers’ orchestra director John Lemons said the Bryan High orchestra is benefiting as well.
“Anytime that you explain your art or whatever your passion is, it helps,” Lemons said. “It reminds you of your own fundamentals, and you’ve got to keep on top of what you’re teaching.”
Lemons said that he is proud of Gonzalez and all the other students that are helping her. Both of them plan to keep the student-led program going for many years to come.
“I plan to continue doing this,” Gonzalez said. “After I graduate, I want kids from the orchestra to stand up and take the lead in the string academy and continue on.”
BRYAN ISD Children First. Always.
If you are interested in signing your child up for the Bach String Academy next year, there will be a parent information meeting in the fall where you can register your child. The time, date and location of the information meeting are not scheduled yet.
For More Information about the Bach String Academy:
A modern-day renaissance man walks through the halls of Bryan Collegiate. His friends know him as Eduardo Pecina.
The Bryan Collegiate senior is fluent in English, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, French and Italian, is ranked 13 in his class with a 4.31 GPA, plays piano and recently designed a video game.
When asked about his motivation, Pecina said, “I will never stop wanting to learn.” However, his quest for knowledge wasn’t always apparent.
Learning New Languages
When Pecina was in the third grade, his mom received a letter from his teacher saying Pecina was acting up in class and telling too many jokes. His mom wasn’t happy but soon realized his behavior was the result of being bored by lessons he previously learned at home. Pecina’s teacher recommended he learn something new after school to take his mind off of the work he sped through easily in school. His mom thought Chinese would be the perfect distraction.
“I hated it,” Pecina said. “I was like, ‘What is this for?’, ‘I don’t even think I’ll ever use this in the future.’ But then, as the years went by, I got better and better at it. I actually learned to love the language.”
Pecina eventually gained the opportunity to travel to China last summer for the Texas A&M Confucius Institute’s Discovering China program. He developed several close friendships. Staying in contact with his Chinese friends also gives him the ability to practice speaking and writing their language.
Chinese is actually the third language Pecina learned because he grew up in a multilingual home as a child of Mexican immigrants. His home life allowed him to learn English and Spanish at the same time in developing his first languages. Then, after he “climbed the steep hill” of learning Chinese, Pecina said other languages seem easier for him to start learning. Something that he is still passionate about doing because of the opportunities learning a new language opens.
Studying at Bryan Collegiate
Bryan Collegiate Dean of Students Tommy Roberts said that learning foreign languages is a graduation requirement at any public high school, but he said the extent to which Pecina has “exceeded the requirements” by learning several additional languages is a testament to the kind of student he is.
“It seems like he knows a little bit about everything,” Roberts said. “He can talk to anyone about anything.”
The feeling about Bryan Collegiate is mutual as Pecina said he loves how the school is a “small, close-knit community.” He said he built strong friendships at the school that will last forever.
“The biggest thing that separates Bryan Collegiate from any other school is that at Bryan Collegiate you can get to know your teachers and the staff, everybody on campus, even the students, you can know them on a personal level.”
Volunteering Through Language
Bryan Collegiate requires 100 volunteer service hours to graduate, but Pecina said that’s not a problem for most students because they possess a built-in mentality to want to help.
“People don’t even look at the fact that you need 100 hours to graduate,” Pecina said. “People think you get to volunteer for 100 hours at least and eventually you’ll just get carried away and do 200, 300, 400 or 500.”
A man of many skills, Pecina chooses to use his language abilities to serve other by volunteering after school at the Bryan Adult Learning Center and Bryan Oak Grove United Methodist Church’s English as a Second Language program. Pecina said he helps people in all the languages he can. He’s helped people from Mexico, Spain, Brazil, China, Italy and he even helped someone from Russia learn Italian.
“You get to teach someone that’s almost at a level of zero, and you can watch them evolve with the language,” Pecina said. “You see this person [that you tutored] at a supermarket and then you just sit there in awe because they can command the language so well from what you’ve taught them. If you can teach them the grammar rules, they just pick up the vocabulary themselves. It’s just amazing.”
Designing Video Games
Pecina said he’s learned that you have to be a good student to be a good teacher. When he was in the eighth grade, he taught himself to code. Something that started as a challenge to his algebra teacher, when Pecina asked him what would happen if he got his calculator to solve a test itself. The teacher told Pecina that if he could do that it would mean he’s a good student and he wouldn’t care if he used a calculator on the test.
“So that got me interested in it and I began to learn how to program TI-83 calculators,” Pecina said. “After I made a small Pacman game in it, I moved on to the next level.”
Eventually, Pecina began practicing coding in the game Minecraft and participating in computer science UIL competitions. Recently, he created a full-length history-based video game called “A Finish Fable” that he said his little brother is addicted to. In designing the game Pecina had to combine several of his skills, including his dialect skills for the voice work, playing piano for the game’s music and creating graphics that he thinks gives the game a “retro” feel.
Planning for the Future
Additionally, Pecina repairs electronic items and participates in school organizations, including serving as president of the National Honors Society at Bryan Collegiate. In September, he was selected as a National Merit Commended Student, meaning he was among the top five percent of more than 1.6 million students in the nation up for the honor.
“A good planner” is the item Pecina said is the secret to balancing his busy schedule. Every night before he goes to sleep he plans out the day ahead of him. Pecina said his schedule can be exhausting at times when he doesn’t plan right, which leads to him “not sleeping well or eating well.” But, he said it gets better once you learn how to plan.
“The key really is time management,” Pecina said. “You don’t just split everything out in your day. You have to plan out every week. I want to make sure I get everything done that I need to and have space for things that I want to.”
After graduation, Pecina will enroll in the Honors Program at Texas A&M University, where plans on majoring in aerospace engineering. Because he attended summer school classes, Pecina will enter Texas A&M with more than the allotted 60 college credits students can earn at Bryan Collegiate in the fall and spring semesters through its partnership with Blinn College. As with all other aspects of his life, Pecina has a plan for post-secondary success.
“After I finish my bachelor’s and master’s degrees I plan on starting my own company and continuing on to expand my knowledge,” Pecina said.
BRYAN ISD Children First. Always.
About Bryan Collegiate
Bryan Collegiate High School is a dual credit high school that partners with Blinn College to allow students the opportunity to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. Students select a university major they are interested in pursuing and follow a specific degree plan as they select Blinn courses. Students can earn an associate’s degree at the same time they earn their high school diploma. There are no fees associated with Bryan Collegiate, as Bryan ISD and Blinn College cover the full cost of Blinn tuition and books.
If Briana Gonzalez receives a new belt at Davila Middle School’s Kickstart Kids belt ceremony 6 p.m. Dec. 14, it will be a proud moment for her and her family. However, the Davila Middle School seventh-grader said a new belt would only be an added benefit to what she has already gained from the Kickstart Kids program.
Gonzalez is currently participating in her second year of the non-profit in-school martial arts program that a group including Chuck Norris started in 1990. She said it provides her with the discipline necessary to respond to conflict. Something she said she struggled with in the past.
Additionally, Gonzalez said the martial arts class increased her confidence and her grades. She credits her success to techniques taught in the class as well as guidance from Michael Cooper, Davila Middle School Kickstart Kids Instructor, who she said is willing to help her and her classmates with their problems.
Cooper is one of two Bryan ISD Kickstart Kids instructors along with Teddy Coleman at Jane Long Middle School. Kickstart Kids arrived at Bryan ISD in 2010 at Davila under former instructor Rommel Gargoles. Coleman arrived the following year when Kickstart Kids came to Jane Long. Over the last six years, Coleman believes he has taught over 1,000 students. He is currently in charge of 256 students, and he said the program is still growing. Jane Long’s belt ceremony will be 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Jane Long big gym.
Many students join the program to learn martial arts techniques, but Cooper said they come out learning much more.
“Punching and kicking is one thing, but the real structure of the family and the personality and self-esteem, that’s what we’re aiming for,” Cooper said.
Like Gonzalez, Jesse Rakowitz, Davila eighth-grader, said he struggled with anger issues before learning martial arts. He used to get into several fights before joining Kickstart Kids. Rakowitz said the program has helped him relax and deal with stress. Rackowitz currently has a blue belt and said he wants to advance all the way to 10th-degree black belt before he’s done, the highest martial arts rank.
Last school year, two Bryan ISD students achieved the coveted rank of first-degree black belt. Nicholas Rudd, Bryan High 10th-grader, and Zachary Yeomans, Bryan High 11th-grader, stood before their peers at last year’s belt ceremony and received embroidered belts, new uniforms and plaques signed by Chuck Norris.
By earning their black belts, Rudd and Yeomans earned the chance to compete with other Kickstart Kids students, perform on demonstration teams throughout Texas and mentor younger students as they become more advanced in the system.
Kickstart Kids is an officially recognized program by the Texas Education Agency and teaches thousands of students at over 50 public schools in Texas. Coleman said the benefits of his program extend beyond his classroom, as he’s received positive feedback from parents and teachers about changes in the attitude and work ethic of students who enroll in his class.
“I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of great things,” Coleman said. “I know students are being a little bit better with the attitude and behavior. I know students are getting some work turned in on time when they’ve had issues with that before. Parents are letting me know their child has changed some behaviors at home as well as at school.”
As parents and teachers observe great strides in students that go through the martial arts program, students recognize growth in themselves. Jane Long eighth-grader Gabby Saenz said she gained many benefits from being in the program.
“I’d recommend Kickstart to anyone thinking of joining because it not only gives you physical health but also mental health,” Saenz said. “Self-respect and self-discipline are highlighted in posters on our wall, and we learn all those traits.
Fruits of the $132 million bond election passed in November 2014, are developing around the district. Construction projects are on time and will be ready for the 2017-2018 school year, when a historic grade realignment is set to take place.
Hammer, backhoe and drill sounds can be found all around Bryan ISD as building projects are coming together.
The new press box at Merrill Green Stadium has been delighting fans during regular season games and playoff games. Sul Ross Elementary students, teachers and staff are enjoying the food coming out of their recently remodeled kitchen. And, SFA student-athletes are excelling in their newly refurbished gym.
Additionally, the new Bryan ISD Performing Arts Center (PAC), once called the Bryan Civic Auditorium, opens at 6 p.m. tonight for a free grand-reopening performance at the historic building.
Upcoming projects to be completed in the spring include building additions and renovations at Henderson, Crockett, and Ross Elementary that are ahead of schedule. The quick progress will allow staff to begin moving in furniture to their new space in May before the projects are scheduled to be complete in the summer. Additionally, SFA Middle school staff are scheduled to start moving in their instructional materials in June.
Renovations at Rudder High School and classroom additions to Jane Long and Sam Rayburn Middle School were granted at the Oct. 17 board meeting. Those projects should progress on time if they follow the lead of all the other projects in the November 2014 bond election. That’s music to the ears of Jeff Windsor, director of construction.
“Right now we’re rocking and rolling on everything we have,” Windsor said.